Up, up, and away: Colton students take flight

Students learn about aviation as part of CTE program dedicated to introducing them to careers in the transportation industry


J. Dollins

Pilot Ken Leyva teaches Leonardo Norzagaray and Edgar Lomas about fuel supply in a private aircraft.

Redlands, CA—The fog had lifted, and with it the spirits of the five Colton High students gathered at the Redlands Municipal Airport for a day of flight and learning about aviation.

Students Leonardo Norzagaray, Edgar Lomas, Natali Caceres, Izaac Orozco, and Aleksandra Orozco stood in the fenced area facing the airfield, watching four-seater Cessna aircraft lift off into the blue yonder. Propellers spun, engines roared, gas fumes tantalized with the promise of movement and open skies.

For Leonardo, Edgar and Natali, this was going to be their first time flying. For Izaac and Aleksandra, they had experience.

“I’m not nervous,” Izaac said.

This event, hosted by the Redlands chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) as part of their Young Eagles program, is for Colton’s students the culmination of a semester long discovery of career opportunities in the transportation industry.

That discovery began in October with the city of Fontana’s “Planes, Trains and Autonomous Vehicles” program. Over five weekends, Colton students joined with students from Fontana Unified School District, and Chaffey Joint Union High School District to participate in interactive activities, presentations, and networking with professionals as an introduction to careers in transportation.

The organizations participating included San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, BNSF Railway, Union Pacific, Ontario International Airport, and Chaffey College. Marcos Meza, ROP Automotive instructor, is excited about this program and what it offers students. “We have had opportunities to go out and explore different careers for the kids, not just necessarily in automotive.”

Edgar Lomas agreed with his teacher. “I’m looking for different career pathways in the future because I am undecided about what I want to do.”

For Natali Caceres, opportunities like these are about breaking stereotypes. “I love cars,” she said. “I have a brother who loves cars, and because of that I just got really into it. The whole thing where females can’t do anything—I just love breaking that, getting my hands dirty.”

On Saturday, though, it was all about flight.

After boarding the tiny Piper Archer II aircraft, Colton’s students were taken on a 20-30 minute trip 4,000 feet above Redlands and Yucaipa. The route took them downwind toward Oak Glen and Yucaipa Regional Park over the reservoirs, then towards Fisherman’s Retreat before turning towards San Timoteo Canyon to follow the railways back down towards Redlands.

The pilots were volunteering their time and resources to provide this experience for the youth. Dan Chapman, who earned the FAA Master Pilot Award for 50-years of safe flying, loves coming out to this event to teach kids about flying. “It’s great fun, it’s good for the community. It gets kids off the iPad, the TV, out of trouble—gets them out here and gets them involved in something worthwhile.”

After their flight touched back down to earth, Edgar and Leonardo were excited.

“It was pretty cool,” Leonardo said with a big smile.

Edgar had more to add. “Being a pilot might be a fun job, one that I wouldn’t get tired of too quickly.”